Ensure People In Jammu & Kashmir Have Easy Access To NHRC : Supreme Court Asks Union Govt
In a plea to reopen statutory panels in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Supreme Court asked the Union Government to consider bringing a mechanism which will allow people people in Jammu and Kashmir to file their complaints to the NHRC from J&K itself pertaining to human rights issues . A bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing the matter on Friday, 17th March 2023.
Earlier, the court had recorded the statement of Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta that the reopening statutory panels in Jammu and Kashmir such as Human Rights Commission, Information Commission- which stopped functioning after the special status of J&K was repealed and the state was converted into a UT- was being considered at the appropriate level. In the hearing, SG Mehta submitted that the National Human Rights Commission, and not a State Human Rights Commission, would be the appropriate statutory panel to deal with human rights issues in Jammu and Kashmir owing to its status of a Union Territory. He added that–
1. The State Commission for Women and Child Rights Commission was ready and selection process of members was going on.
2. State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities had been appointed.
3. State Electricity Regulatory Commission had been set up.
4. As per the Reorganisation Act, the central law applies for the purposes of State Information Commission and the Central body would act as the State Information Commission.
5. State Consumer Dispute Rederessal Commission has been set up and is functioning.
Justice PS Narasimha asked if these commissions had their offices in Jammu and Kashmir. He enquired–
"You are saying that the Central Commissions will double up as the State Commissions. So for accessibility, is there a sitting there in Jammu and Kashmir? They would have to go to Delhi."
SG Mehta responded by stating that the Selection Committee had been selecting people who would be sitting in Jammu and Kashmir.
The petitioner, Advocate Asim Sarode, objected to the same stating that –
"There are no offices in Jammu and Kashmir and that is required. This is about access to justice."
To this, SG Mehta stated that there will soon be offices if they were not already there.
CJI DY Chandrachud remarked–
"So we'll record your submission that where the offices are not made available yet, they will be made available so access to justice is not impeded."
SG Mehta also submitted that even virtual hearings would be available. Here, he gave the example of the Central Commission for Information which allowed for virtual hearings.
Justice Narasimha opined–
"You say after the Reorganisation Act came into force, NHRC is the commission. So question is if there are any complaints with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, it would be adjudicated by NHRC, but the sitting will only be in Delhi. So virtually it means that Jammu and Kashmir has no State Human Rights Commission, unless we record your statement that NHRC can have a sitting either in Jammu and Kashmir or virtually once in a month or twice a month- some arrangement can be made."
CJI DY Chandrachud asked the SG to find a mechanism so that people in Jammu and Kashmir can file their grievances and complaints to NHRC. SG agreed to get instructions on this point.
The matter is now posted for 24th March 2023.
The petition has been filed by Asim Suhas Sarode stating that various statutory panels like the State Information Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the consumer panel in Jammu and Kashmir are no longer functioning since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
Case Title: Asim Suhas Sarode v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 921/2020